I know I don't have to tell you that life is costly.
Especially during the holidays, when it feels like a pressure cooker of surmounting costs.
Which means this time of year can be tricky for families. There's so much to do and so much emphasis on making it all special and magical... which can often feel like it takes a lot of money.
Money that you may not have.
Money that you may not want to spend on the things others (especially your kids) are wanting.
And having to focus on money when you really want to focus on something else.
So, what can you do to make the holidays feel special for others AND guilt-free for you?
1. Slow down.
Take a moment, and take a breath.
Now, take another moment and another breath. (Seriously!)
Give yourself some space and time to slow way down and just be. Allow yourself space from the distractions of your kids, or relatives, or checking Facebook, or what the folks on TV are up to, etc. Get still and quiet enough to listen to you and what your heart, not your head, is communicating.
2. Ask yourself, "How do I want to feel this season?"
What is the spirit of this season for you? Is it about giving gifts? Great, find ways to give gifts that feels good to you. Is it about having memorable experiences? Wonderful, create that for you and yours. Is it about something completely different? Awesome, experiment with it! Whatever "it" is, it's valid. Give yourself a little love for your own wishes and desires. And be mindful of tuning into yourself and how you want the season to flow before you bring anyone else's desires and wishes into the mix.
3. Ask your people, "What would make this holiday season feel special?"
Do it! Go ahead and ask the folks around you this question. It's different than, "What do you want?" It's drills a bit deeper and opens up room for a bigger conversation. Ask and listen. Even if at first they list off a bunch of toys and goods they want as gifts. Acknowledge that --"Ooh, I hear that you are really wanting x, y and z." Then follow up with, "And, how do you imagine that will make you feel?" See what happens when you open up this discussion. You might be pleasantly surprised at what your people have to share. (And there's no age requirement for this question. ;)
4. Decide how much you can spend, stick to it and get creative!
It's not serving anyone in your life for you to feel stressed out by the holidays. Let me say that again -- it doesn't serve anyone in your life for you to feel stressed out.
No one's life is better when you are stressed out.
This is especially true around the gift-giving. Decide what you are comfortable with and keep yourself within a budget. And then, get creative! There's thrift stores and second hand stores and ebay and all sorts of places you can often find exactly the things your people want for less money. Be wide open to thinking out of the box.
5. Manage expectations
Give the people around you (extended family included) a heads up of what's possible. Everyone celebrates and loves in different ways, so be clear about what they can expect from you. Own what that this is your boundary and your expectation, and invite them to share what theirs is. And if you feel comfortable, share your answer to #2 and ask them #3! (For a helpful video and sample letter, click here.)
6. Dream with them
Even if you can't provide what your people want, it doesn't mean they need to give up on their desires or dreams. I've seem amazing experiences when someone, even a young person, has a desire for something and the parent is clear that it's not an option. However, instead of shutting the desire down, the parent offers to help them find a way to create what they are wanting. Perhaps it's selling some toys they don't play with anymore or doing some chores for a neighbor or asking a relative who is going to get them a gift to give them money instead that will go toward something special. There are ways to help them get things without you having to pay for them. Be open minded to this idea. Dream big with your littles!
7. Enough really is enough
You're people will feel how they feel. Remind yourself of #1 (slowwww dowwwwn) and listen and connect. I've seen parents assume their children will be massively disappointed, and that expectation absolutely colors the experience. And if the littles do get upset, you feeling guilty for their reaction is not going help either of you. Amp up your self care, then give them lots of love. You're doing the best you can, so when you succeed -- cheer! And when you struggle, be gentle with yourself and let it go. You are enough. You do enough. You have enough.